What a terrible tragedy:

The five locomotives and 72 oil cars had been parked about eight miles from Lac-Mégantic on Friday night. The brakes then somehow released and the train gathered pace as it rolled down a hill into the center of the town early on Saturday morning.

It derailed and exploded into a gigantic fireball, flattening dozens of buildings and killing five people. Another 40 are missing and few residents hold out hope that they will be found alive.

Police said they had been unable to examine much of the town center overnight because the area was still too dangerous. Dozens of tanker wagons, some of them destroyed, are lying at the accident site.

Somehow released?

That’s suspiciously vague. I wonder if that happens often.

Can’t imagine it does.

Here’s video of the fire, by the way:

This is a tragic loss of life, but the political animal in me wasn’t silenced by it.

One of my first thoughts was of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

I wondered how many town centers had been destroyed by oil pipeline explosions?

How often oil pipelines become strangely unmoored and run ramshackle into populated areas?

Turns out, in America, that’s never happened.

Pipeline explosions happen in Mexico and African countries, like Kenya, but the difference is, those are state owned corporations. Vandalism also plays a major role in those explosions.

The fact is, transporting oil by pipeline is far safer than transporting it by rail.

Facts don’t have much of a role in a liberal’s debate, though.


From National Geographic:

It has been more than a century since so much oil has moved across North America by rail. The railroads helped John D. Rockefeller build his Standard Oil empire at the dawn of the petroleum age. But ever since the first successful oil pipeline was built in Pennsylvania in 1879, it became clear that pipes were a cheaper and quicker way to transport oil. When oil production shifted to Texas and Oklahoma, pipelines rapidly connected the new production hub to the rest of the country.

North America’s new hot oil production centers, the Bakken shale in North Dakota and the oil sands of western Canada, aren’t well tied into this pipeline network. (See related photos: “Bakken Shale Oil Boom Transforms North Dakota.”) But the price of crude oil is now high enough that the additional cost of paying to transport it by train has not been a hindrance for the oil industry in North Dakota, the U.S. State Department said in an extensive market analysis related to the decision whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas. (See interactive, “Mapping the Flow of Tar Sands Oil.”)

Rail transport of oil has been slower to develop out of Canada’s oil sands. But State Department analysts foresee it growing—one of the key reasons they concluded that the Keystone XL, if built, would have minimal impact on greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon-intensive oil of Canada’s tar sands will get to market, with or without the pipeline, they argued; it will move by rail. (See related: “Keystone XL Pipeline Path Marks New Battle Line in Oklahoma.”)  Others dispute that conclusion, noting that the heavy tar sands oil, which needs extensive processing, does not fetch as high a price as the light, sweet crude from North Dakota, making the costs of rail travel more difficult for producers.

In any event, more than half of North Dakota’s oil production is now transported by rail, and extensive infrastructure is now being built to ship more, the State Department said.

Just not the Keystone XL pipeline, because that’s dangerous, or something.

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